College coaching legend highlights Rotary Club meeting

Published 3:30 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

The Winchester-Clark County Rotary Club hosted a Kentucky college basketball coaching legend last Friday.

Robert “Happy” Osborne, Jr., who led Georgetown College to an NAIA National Championship in 1998, spoke in front of various members at Woody’s Sports Bar and Grill.

“The reason for any success I had was good players,” Osborne said. “We were blessed to have some really good players and people.”

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Osborne’s credentials as a college coach undoubtedly speak for themselves.

In sixteen seasons at Georgetown College, along with the national championship mentioned above, he led the Tigers to two other NAIA Tournament finals and four additional trips to the Fab Four before leaving the school in 2011.

His total record at the school was 456-84, ending with an astounding 84.4% winning percentage.

Afterward, Osborne spent time as the associate head coach at Division-1 Tennessee Tech and coached one season at Montgomery County, leading the Indians to a Sweet 16 birth in 2013.

He then returned to the college ranks as the head coach at Division II Kentucky Wesleyan College in 2013. He led the Panthers to two NCAA Division II appearances over four seasons before resigning due to health reasons in 2017.

Initially thinking about a career in law, the native of Lynch in the eastern portion of the state attended Pikeville College before following his head coach —Wayne Martin—to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

While helping assist the team and staff, Osborne realized coaching was his calling once and for all.

As a player and coach, Osborne has had several interesting encounters during his career.

One, in particular, occurred while still coaching at Morehead State University when he crossed paths with former Indiana Hoosiers Head Coach Bobby Knight.

Knight, a three-time national championship-winning head coach, was previously the record-holder for most wins in NCAA Division 1 history.

Though Osborne’s team lost to Indiana, Knight took time afterward to encourage players when he stopped by their bus.

“He gets on the bus [and] he starts bragging on our guys,” recalled Osborne. “[He said], ‘You got to believe. You’ve got a great staff.’”

Now a resident of Clark County, Osborne spoke of the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams and Clark County Public Schools altogether.

“I can’t be more excited about the direction that Clark County schools are headed,” Osborne said. “I think things are going in such a great way.”

Osborne also offered words for anyone seeking to coach.

“I would just tell them to go with your heart. I think you’ve got to lead with your heart, and you’ve got to love the kids,” Osborne said. “You’ve got to make them play. They’ve got to play with everything they have, and it’s got to be bigger than them.”

With GRC Boys Basketball Coach Josh Cook present, Osborne noted that the impact was evident.

“I think kids want discipline. I think kids want people that care about them, and that’s one of the things Josh does,” he said. “I don’t think you can question how much he cares about his kids.”